I love love. Always have, always will. Sure, it’s nice to be liked—but nothing beats when someone is “head-over-heels, can’t-live-without-you, go-out-of-my-way-to-see-you” in love with you.
Let’s take this Valentine’s Day season to reflect on our relationships with our customers, and what we can do to woo them from simply liking our brands to loving our brands.
When I think about brands I love, I immediately think about Southwest Airlines. I travel about 2–3 times per month, and on every domestic flight, I fly Southwest. On one trip I had such a great experience that I tweeted my affection—and by the time I landed, they replied!
Seeing Southwest’s clear love for their customers, it’s no wonder they’ve had 43 consecutive years of profitability in one of the most volatile industries. When I think about how my love affair developed with Southwest—and plenty of my other favorite brands—I can see how the philosophies of SMG are in the forefront of their business model. SMG has built our company on helping brands measure how much their customers love them, and uncovering insights as to how they can convert like into love. Let’s look at a few of those philosophies—and how you can turn like into love, too.
Deliver on top drivers of satisfaction
Not all aspects of the experience are created equal, so we must deliver on what customers find most valuable. One of SMG’s foundational analyses is our key driver model. This model helps explain what brands should work on to move customers from a fine experience to a great one. We take it one step further and use this model to prescribe specific Areas For Focus (AFFs) for each location. If managers make improvements on their AFFs, they will have more customers in love with their brand in no time. In one client example, locations with the most improvement in their AFFs saw a 7.4-point increase in customers’ Overall Satisfaction, compared to flat performance for locations that did not improve their AFFs.
Consistency is key
It’s no coincidence that some of our top performing brands in the SMG benchmark are also some of the most consistent brands. Any time a customer visits you—be it morning, noon, or night—they should receive the same great service every time. If a customer loves you in the morning, they should have the same great experience in the evening, too.
Top brands also know how to execute a consistent experience across locations. In one client example, we provided a performance heat map so the client could understand where customers had polarizing experiences. They were shocked to find a pocket of locations with average performance were located within a mile or two of stores with poor performance. To guarantee a favorable impression of your brand, customers must know they’ll have a consistently great experience at every single location. When that doesn’t happen, it’s critical to dig in and find out why and how to fix it.
Even on an off-day, consistently strong performance is also a great defense. It makes a negative experience more forgivable because customers know poor service is the exception—not the rule.
Respond to customer feedback
Customers want to know that their feedback matters, and your brand cares about them. I had a memorable experience at a restaurant where the service was so-so, but when my order arrived it was mostly incorrect. I politely told the waiter about the issue—and he was shocked. To make up for the service error, not only did the kitchen quickly remake my order, but the waiter even had them box up an extra serving for me to take home. His above-and-beyond response to my problem made me totally forgive that it happened in the first place, and I left with an awesome impression of the restaurant. What could’ve turned into a bad review, instead made me—the customer—love the restaurant and want to return.
But, not all issues can be resolved on-the-spot. Even if the customer experience has passed, how it’s managed after the fact can turn into a defining moment for the brand. With many clients, we often see that customers who had an issue resolved tend to be more loyal than those who never even had an issue in the first place.
To put it simply, brands can move their customers from like to head-over-heels in love by quickly responding to customer feedback, and consistently delivering on what’s important to their experience.
We know this task is often much easier said than done. Even still, I hope Valentine’s Day can serve as a reminder for us to reflect on what makes customers fall in love with our brands in the first place—consistently great experiences every single time.
Want to learn more about using these philosophies to inspire customer loyalty? Read our case study to see how Belk does it.
Director, Client Insights